Coinciding with the Christian Holy Week and Jewish Passover, this was the sixth year the Holy Week Pilgrimage for Immigrants walked the streets of Cobb. The group formed at the St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church, on the corner of King Springs and Cooper Lake roads in Smyrna, then traveled down South Cobb Drive towards the Square.
P.J. Edwards, a parishioner at St. Thomas and an organizer of the pilgrimage, said this year’s crowd was smaller than the 1,600 marchers last year.
Still, Edwards said the group includes members of St. Thomas, as well as residents from other parts of town and various denominations.
“It is pretty phenomenal the people who are out today,” Edwards said. He added the many people who stopped to ask for information were “surprisingly” supportive.
Edwards, who moved to the Atlanta area in 1991, has been a parishioner at St. Thomas since 1995.
“When I started it was a majority white church, and relatively quickly, it has become a majority Hispanic church,” Edwards said.
The minority increase was by design.
“We are a very welcoming church,” Edwards said, of the congregation from Africa and Asia, as well as an Indian vicar.
The church, founded in 1966, can only seat 600 people at a time in the sanctuary, which Edwards said is small for a Catholic church in the Cobb area.
Every Sunday, St. Thomas holds four English services and three Spanish services, from 6 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Edwards said he is a conservative, who believes in family values.
“I believe people who work hard should be rewarded,” said Edwards, emphasizing that the Hispanic families he has come to know are hard workers and often give back to community.
Thursday’s march was a peaceful symbol of communities coming together in solidarity against injustice, evident by the wood cross carried at the front of the line with the names of children who have been affected by immigration.
“We are all equal under God’s eyes,” Edwards said.
The walk ended with U.S. born citizens washing the feet of recent immigrants, including some who are involved in deportation proceedings.
Then the duo switched while holding hands and looking at each other, in order to see the dignity of the other person and recognize their similarities, Edwards said.
During the feet washing, the participants sang “When I look into your eyes, I see the face of Jesus” in Spanish.